What is the Difference between Coaching Supervision and Mentor Coaching?

What is the Difference between Coaching Supervision and Mentor Coaching?

If you are a professional coach and you want to develop your coaching capabilities, you will probably explore if coaching supervision or mentor coaching can help you achieve just that. But what is actually the difference between coaching supervision and mentor coaching?

Let's start with mentor coaching. Mentor coaching is frequently heard of in the context of the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The ICF currently* requires coaches to complete at least ten hours of mentoring to receive ACC, PCC, or MCC credentials and defines:

"Mentor Coaching for an ICF Credential consists of coaching and feedback in a collaborative, appreciative and dialogued process based on an observed or recorded coaching session to increase the coach's capability in coaching, in alignment with the ICF Core Competencies."

and

"Mentoring provides professional assistance in achieving and demonstrating the levels of coaching competency and capability demanded by the desired credential level."

While increasing the coach's capability, providing professional assistance, and focusing on collaboration, appreciation, and dialogue may sound very similar to coaching supervision, there are obviously some striking differences.

Explicit Differences between Coaching Supervision and ICF Mentor Coaching

According to the ICF definition above, mentoring can include coaching. I have not come across any definition for coaching supervision that would include the term coaching. A coach supervisor supervises and does not coach. In fact, coaching supervision is seen as distinctly different from coaching.

ICF mentor coaching requires the mentor to either observe a coach's live session or to listen to a recording of their coaching session. In coaching supervision, in contrast, the coach can simply bring a coaching case or a theme to their coach supervisor. Of course, it is possible to have the coach supervisor observe a live session or a recording if both coach and supervisor find that helpful.

Most importantly, ICF mentor coaching is usually done to help the coach pass the next accreditation level. Consequently, mentor coaching focuses on a demonstration of the ICF competencies. Coaching supervision, however, goes beyond the process of accreditation and competencies. Coaching supervision aims at ensuring the continuing development of a coach at any time and in all areas related to their coaching practice.

What are the Requirements for Becoming a Coach Supervisor vs. an ICF Mentor Coach?

In most countries, coaching supervision is not regulated. I.e., anybody can call themselves a coach supervisor — just like anybody can call themselves a coach. However, the vast majority of professionally practicing coach supervisors have undergone a supervision-specific training and certification process.

In contrast, the requirements to become an ICF mentor coach seem surprisingly low: the candidate only needs to hold any of the three ICF credentials (Associate Certified Coach (ACC), Professional Certified Coach (PCC), or Master Certified Coach (MCC); in the case of ACC, they must have renewed their credential at least once) to be a mentor. Furthermore, while the ICF provides a PDF file with "mentor coaching duties and competencies," you don't even have to read this document to get listed in the ICF mentor coach directory. All you have to do is to pay 50 USD.

Is Coaching Supervision better than Mentor Coaching?

What you get out of either coaching supervision or mentor coaching will first and foremost depend on the quality of your coach supervisor, respectively your mentor coach, and how well the two of you connect. While one could not say that coaching supervision is better than mentor coaching, coaching supervision is undoubtedly broader. For example, while coaching supervision can include evaluating a coach's demonstration of the ICF competencies, it does not focus on these primarily. And coaching supervision can support you in achieving the next level of accreditation, but it does not only look at the credentialing process but aims at making you a better coach in general.

All things considered, while there are certainly excellent mentor coaches, the ICF way of mentor coaching bears several shortcomings:

-the focus on ICF competencies can lead to overlooking other critical elements of a coach's capability

-the lack of requirements for a mentoring-specific training or certification (beyond holding an ICF credential) allows anybody to become a mentor coach without any particular qualification

-as the ICF requires mentor coaching only for the accreditation process, there is a risk that it is approached as "just ticking the box" and not as a form of continuous professional development.

In conclusion:

Mentor Coaching, as defined by the International Coaching Federation, has a strong focus on its credentialing process and its competencies. If you aspire to receive ACC, PCC, or MCC credentials, as of today, you must undergo at least ten hours of mentor coaching.

Coaching Supervision takes a more general and more long-term approach to the development of coaches, independent from certification processes and beyond a set of competencies.

Author: Gerrit Pelzer
*all requirements mentioned in this article refer to the time of its writing in July 2021 and may be subject to change


If you would like to explore if coaching supervision or mentor coaching is right for you, let's talk! An exploratory session is complimentary and free from any obligations. Just fill out the form below or send an email to gerrit@coachingsupervision.online.

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